How does a console game from the previous generation fare on modern PCs? Surprisingly well, I have to admit.
A Bit of History
When it launched back in 2010 Vanquish was a knee-jerk reaction from the masters of the genre to the plethora of cover shooters like Gears of War. Arguably, Platinum Games didn’t like the new trend and feared that it will dominate the shooter landscape for years. They were right as the cover mechanics spilled to other types of electronic entertainment and nowadays it can be found in pretty every title with a third person camera. And even in some first person shooters as well.
It’s 2017 and the PC premiere of Vanquish seems a bit odd. PC players tend to ask console developers for years to port their best games to the computers so that they could have a taste of what those console gamers are shouting about all the time. Red Dead Redemption will not come to the PCs (here’s hoping for the sequel), so Sega fills the void first with the superb Bayonetta, then with the astonishing Vanquish.
Russians in Space
It’s the near future and the Russians are apparently still evil. After the resources of Earth are depleted the nations of the Green Planet decide to take to the stars to find new sources of energy. One of such endeavors is the Providence, an American space station that harnesses the power of the sun. An offshoot of the Russian army, calling itself the Order of the Russian Star, attacks the installation and directs the deadly solar rays onto San Francisco, which evaporates in seconds.
This is where Sam Gideon, an agent of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which, contrary to its name, is pretty good at creating technologies for spreading mayhem. This rarely talked about American agency in the real world is developing such cool sounding, but ultimately deadly technologies like remotely controlled insects or neural implants for soldiers. Anyways, Gideon is sent to Providence in an Augmented Reaction Suit. This exo-armor not only gives him astonishing speed and strength, but also slows down time when Gideon is injured. That’s a nice explanation for all the slo-mo effects that Vanquish is so proud of. Oh, and it allows Gideon to slide through levels on his knees like an overpowered guitar player that slides all the time.
The story of Vanquish is… well, it’s there. The Russians sometime feel more likeable than the American no-name marines and the do-gooder Gideon, but we all know that it’s much easier to create an interesting antagonist than to create believable protagonists. You really can’t focus on the points of the presented events, really, as the game’s tempo takes you from level to level without wasting a single breath. It reminds me a bit of the Call of Duty campaign, where you are pushed forward all the time, but hey, at least in this case there’s no dissonance between the story and the game itself.
It’s All About the Knees
Vanquish never tries to hide its mechanics behind a story or additional elements. It’s all about movement and shooting. The AR mode I’ve written above has its downside. It’s not a God mode, you see, as slowing down time depletes your energy meter. Forget about it and you’ll be a sitting DARPA duck in the middle of a killing field.
As apparently all the mind juice of the DARPA scientists went into creating a rocket sliding mechanisms, Gideon can only carry three weapons at once, but this poses a problem only during sections when you have to fight many vehicles at once and you enter the battle with rifles and such. Fortunately you can upgrade the weapons so that they become a bit more devastating.
To Cover or Not to Cover
One of the interesting things about Vanquish is the way it enhances the standard cover shooter mechanic. Yes, Platinum Games also included this dreary method of hiding behind chest-high walls, but the developers tried to expand it by making you move as much as you can. You see, the Russians are not stupid, so to counter hiding behind covers they created a set of anti-cover weapons like seeker missiles that omit walls and such. So you have to be on the move, all the time.
The boosted knee sliding technology means that you can move quickly from cover to cover to escape such attacks, but this is an offensive technique as well, because guess what you can on the run. Shoot, of course. Vanquish is all about shooting. Shooting while jumping, shooting while sliding, shooting while escaping. It’s a shootery shooter.
The 2010 game looks just magnificent on modern PCs, after all, it’s been 7 years since the launch of the game and Platinum Games pulled no punches when it comes to upgrading the graphics. And the unlocked framerate does wonders for a game where fluidity and speed are of paramount importance. The science-fiction setting holds up after 7 years with futuristic installations and living quarters spread all about the O’Neill Cylinder type colony. There’s rarely time to take in the views though.
As a shooter Vanquish was a much rarer thing back in 2010 than it is now. There are games, after all, which tried to return to the roots of the genre, or at least give it more speed and an arcade feel. Vanquish, however, is still a great game and works great with a keyboard and a mouse, so if you are itching for a fight in space, you know what you have to do.